The supply chain industry has had to weather quite a storm in recent times. For businesses caught in the COVID-19 tempest, survival has depended on who’s holding the umbrella.
In the case of supply chain consultancy Prological, Director and Founder Peter Jones has channeled his passion and experience into ensuring his company emerged from the pandemic even stronger than before.
"We’ve gone from me in a room at home in 2010 to a broad staff of 19 people today," he says.
The former machine fitter has had an unconventional journey through the supply chain sector, to say the least.
"I started in 1996 with a small freight brokerage/consulting firm, and I’d come from outside the industry altogether," he says. "Prior to that I’d been an Anglican Church pastor."
The world of domestic and international freight soon revealed itself to the new recruit, and within 18 months he’d become the business’s National Manager. "But in hindsight, I still didn’t know anything," Jones admits.
With a long way to go, he accepted an offer from industry leader Dawson Consulting to help reestablish its freight consulting business unit. "That’s where my skill set became more professionalized," Jones says.
"Working within that corporate environment gave me a strong education and allowed me to work with clients at a much higher level."
In 2002, Jones’s confidence had grown to the point where he felt it was time to start a business of his own. "Four of us started a business called Logiworx, which went on to run for eight years," he says.
"We had a very friendly amicable parting of ways in 2010 – they bought me out – and I started Prological on my own."
Despite what seems like a radical series of career shifts, Jones says there are some obvious through lines. "Ultimately, supply chains are all about systems and processes, and my engineering background lends itself very much to understanding that," he acknowledges.
The supply chain industry is also a people industry.
"The supply chain industry is also a people industry, so my vocational ministry training and years working in parishes with people in all sorts of situations was great preparation for what I’m doing now, which is helping people fulfill their dreams and ambitions as well as help their business be successful and achieve its objectives."
Jones’s unusual journey was critical, he says, in determining his current success. "I’m not sure I ever would have thought to myself in a constructive way, ‘I want to go and start my own business’," he says. "But when my options were to be an employee again or start a business, the former was just never going to happen.
"You can’t sacrifice the freedom being your own boss brings or the sense of achievement that comes with the work we do, the difference we can make to our clients. You can’t get that as an employee."
Instead, Jones has made Prological into a high-performance, collaborative changemaker within the supply chain industry. "I love working for Australian manufacturers and being able to influence their business to the degree that it’s actually made a difference to their sustainability," he says.
As he’s quick to point out, however, it wasn’t a quick process. "We’ve not had a clean run, but that’s normal. Being able to overcome hiccups along the way is a significant challenge, but a phrase that’s stuck with me is, ‘unless the horse is dead, do not dismount’," he says.
"You’ve got to be brave and hold your breath sometimes. We’re still alive after 13 years, and we’re going very well in the current climate."
Success has two guises, in Jones’s estimation. The first is resilience; the second is innovation.
Being able to overcome hiccups along the way is a significant challenge, but a phrase that’s stuck with me is, ‘unless the horse is dead, do not dismount’,
"We worked with one client to develop some new transport equipment that had not existed previously in Australia," he says. "We were able to push into new frontiers, and these particular vehicles had such a profound impact on the cost of moving products that the business picked up nearly 20 percent in market share in the following 12 months.
"There was a number of elements that fed into that outcome, but without the supply chain side of things, the rest of it had no way of mobilizing."
This blend of engineering and supply chain expertise is one of several elements that make Prological unique, including its highly collaborative nature and courage to take chances in a risk-averse industry. "You look at the first and biggest problem and go and solve that," Jones explains.
"Then you just keep knocking them off until you get down to micro challenges, and ultimately you resolve all the problems."
An origin of innovation
Many of these virtues find their origins in Jones’s history, making Prological the embodiment of his life’s learnings.
"When I was in high school, I went skiing as much as I could, but being from a humble family, the money wasn’t always there to do so," he says. "And then someone said to me, ‘why don’t you run a snow trip?’"
I had a problem, I saw a solution, and I just went for it and made it happen. That sort of story has occurred throughout my life.
The young Jones took this as a challenge. "There’s no way you could do this today, but I spoke to bus charter services and put together my own group trips. I ended up making enough money from one group charter that I could go five or six times on my own," he recalls.
"I had a problem, I saw a solution, and I just went for it and made it happen. That sort of story has occurred throughout my life."
With Prological now taking those chances and devising such solutions on behalf of some of Australia’s biggest supply chain players, Jones says the need to stay innovative is more crucial than ever.
"If you go out there and do today what you were doing yesterday, you’re effectively going backwards," he says.
"You’ve got to be reinventing things constantly in order to stay ahead of the game."